Print Media’s Comeback? Well, Sort of …

President Obama gave kudos to print media this past Saturday evening during his speech at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, singling out the Boston Globe’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The president closed his comedic-style remarks on a somber note saying “we have seen humanity shine at its brightest,” referencing how first responders to everyday citizens came together as a country to assist with the recent tragedies in Boston, Texas and the Midwest.

“We also saw journalists at their best who took the time to wade up stream through the torrent of digital rumors and chase down facts,” said the president in a packed room at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  “If anyone wonders whether newspapers are a thing of the past, all you needed to do was to pick up or log on to papers like the Boston Globe.  When their communities needed them most, they were there making sense … that’s what great journalism is and that’s what great journalists do.”

No doubt the president was playing nice with the media.  It’s also important to keep in mind that Saturday’s event was organized by the White House Correspondents’ Association, an organization of journalists who cover the president.

Whether or not the president was continuing his charm offensive remains unclear.  There is truth to his comments, however.  More stringent editorial protocols exist for print outlets than many self-publishing online media even though newspaper staffs have been heavily downsized.

In fact, the newspaper industry dropped 30 percent of its newsroom staff since 2000 and hit below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978, according to the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2013.

There is an upside however.  Pew reported that newspaper circulation revenue, both for weekday and Sunday editions, has remained relatively steady over the past two decades.  Moreover, decline in total print ad revenue seems to have leveled off somewhat, although online ad growth has been minimal at best.

Several factors have contributed to the small glimmer of good news within the newspaper industry including a surge in pay wall subscriptions, which coincidently the Boston Globe recently halted in the aftermath of the Boston bombings.

Newspapers are not out of the woods yet.  These outlets have created strong brand awareness cultivated over decades by providing local news to communities.  The trick is leveraging this attribute while reorganizing their business models to successfully compete in today’s online media landscape.

Late night TV talk show host Conan O’Brien who headlined the correspondents’ dinner may have said it best, “… many people are saying print media is dying, but I don’t believe it, and neither does my blacksmith.”

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